- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 9, 2004

Baltimore has a new tourist attraction. A nearly 8,000-square-foot visitor center opened Friday, replacing the city’s temporary 540-square-foot visitor center, which was housed in a trailer.

The state-of-the-art, $4.5 million glass building, on the west shore of the Inner Harbor, includes displays showcasing special events, neighborhoods, black history, arts and culture, as well as hotels, attractions, restaurants, shops and must-see sites in the city and across Maryland.

It features a 50-seat theater where visitors are offered a brief video titled “The Baltimore Experience.”

The new facility also has an interactive element with several touch-screen computer information kiosks that highlight the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association’s (BACVA) more than 700 members. In addition, visitors can buy tickets for events and attractions and make hotel and restaurant reservations through the center’s new ticketing and reservation system, Connect Baltimore.

The visitor center will “play a critical role in educating the more than 11 million out-of-town visitors who come to Baltimore annually about everything the region has to offer, with the goal of increasing trip visitation,” said Leslie Doggett, BACVA’s president and chief executive. “Once visitors realize you cannot see everything in one day, they will stay overnight or come back again.”

The center, which is run by the association, has two managers who oversee daily operations, as well as a rotating staff of about 115 part-time employees and volunteers.

Retail rummage

• Comfort One Shoes, which has 18 stores in the Washington and Baltimore areas, has plans to open five more stores in the region this year. The Manassas, Va., shoe store chain, which sells European brands, has hired Chris Muller of Asadoorian Retail Solutions to represent the company for its Mid-Atlantic expansion plans. The chain has a five-year plan to operate more than 35 stores.

• Greenberg Commercial Corp. of Owings Mills, Md., is breaking ground next month on a 100,000-square-foot shopping center at Central Avenue and Pike Ridge Road in Anne Arundel County. Edgewater Village Center, expected to be complete in the second quarter of 2005, will be anchored by a 55,255-square-foot Safeway Marketplace, a prototype that will include brand-name retail partners such as Starbucks, Bergmann’s Dry Cleaners and SunTrust Bank. Other tenants include Edgewater Liquors and BB&T; Bank.

Greenberg Commercial is looking for retailers for the remaining 20,000 square feet. KLNB Retail is handling the center’s leasing.

• The new Shoppes at Bowie Town Center has just 10,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space available. Tenants including Off Broadway, Factory Card Outlet and David’s Bridal have been opening at the 104,000-square-foot shopping center over the past two months. Les Sax and Ralph Tapiero of Sax Realty Inc. in Bethesda represent owner and developer MLS Properties as the exclusive agents.

• Pier 1 Imports is opening a 10,444-square-foot store at 8510 Fenton St. in Silver Spring on May 21. The store will have 15 full- and part-time employees. The home-furnishing chain has 24 locations in Maryland.

• Donna De Marco can be reached at 202/636-4884.Retail & Hospitality runs every other Monday.

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